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Dahu Park

Dahu Park

By Eason Lin, age 10, Taiwan

One Thursday, my classmates, teachers, and I went to Dahu Park to study nature. Dahu park’s moon bridge is one of the most famous places in the whole world. That’s because, at night, it shines bright like the moon! On the bridge, I saw something huge floating on top of the water. I wondered what it was, so I went down to look; when I saw what it was, I wished I hadn’t. There was a rotting, dead, ugly fish floating in the pond. My friend Jasper came over to see what I was looking at and he almost threw up. I asked him if he needed medicine, he said he needed me to get that fish as far away from him as possible. I poked it with a stick, I realized that it was hard and it’s eye was missing. I was totally disgusted. I lost my appetite. Our teacher, sensing what was about to happen, took us away from the pond.

We walked for a while, avoiding the lake and bridges. After a while, our appetites came back. We started to feel hungry when we arrived at the restaurant. After we ate, we kept exploring Dahu Park. As we crossed over a bridge, I tried not to look into the water.

Then, I saw three old men fishing. Two looked exasperated and nervous, the other was calm. They looked like they were competing. I got closer. One of them swore under his breath when a fish nibbled the bait and swam away. The calm one however, patiently waited for a fish to fall into the trap. He wore a hat that made him look like a cowboy and also had a lot of other fishing gear. When he finally caught a fish, I was so happy I could’ve jumped into the lake. But then, the fish managed to squirm out of the old man’s hand, falling back into the lake. I was so disappointed that I moaned in despair. After a while, he caught another one. This one was really small. I expected him to put it in a container or something, but no, he threw it to a nearby bird. It gobbled it up happily. The other birds looked at it with jealousy, then moved closer to the old man. I was shocked. He worked so hard and finally caught a fish, and he threw his first one to a bird!

I thought maybe the disgusting fish earlier had something to do with this old man’s actions. The fish he caught had been scrawny and looked sick. I was so close to him that I could hear him mutter something about the people polluting the water. That’s when I realized what he was talking about. The reason why we saw the dead fish earlier was because people were polluting the water. I noticed the fish he caught had the same black pattern on its scales as the dead fish. Those weren’t scales, those were the result of bad chemicals. I felt really bad for the fish. Maybe someone threw some trash with chemicals into the water. Then another person threw another piece of trash into the lake. Maybe when the two chemicals were mixed together, they created a new deadly substance that killed the fish. This doesn’t just affect the fish, it affects us too. If the smaller fish get poisoned, and the big fish eat them, the big fish will get poisoned. If we eat the poisoned fish, we will get poisoned. Then, Dahu park will not be famous for its moon bridge, it will be famous for it’s dead fish.

We, humanity, need to think about our actions before doing them. If we don’t stop littering, it will be our turn to become polluted and sick.

—Eason Lin, age 10, Taiwan. 

“I speak Chinese and English. I don’t care about anything else other than growing up healthily. I want to be an author when I grow up. My teacher and my classmates inspired me to write my submission. In my spare time, I like to read books. I like Taiwan because it’s peaceful and beautiful. So I wouldn’t want to damage it. I tell my classmates not to litter, or Taiwan will turn ugly.”


A Call for Action: Muslims and Jews Find Community in Nature

A Call for Action: Muslims and Jews Find Community in Nature

A Convergence of Islamic and Jewish Perspectives on the Environment

By Emily Maremont, age 17, California.

In my fifth grade gardening class, I shared a shovel with a girl who had recently immigrated to the United States from Yemen. Here we were—me a Jew, her a Muslim—passing that rusty shovel back and forth across a row of red clay pots. Little did I know at the time, the act of cultivating that rooftop garden followed what our ancestors had done for thousands of years. Ancient teachings from both Islam and Judaism stress the importance of caring for the natural world. In America, the birthplace of the modern interfaith and environmentalist movements, the fight to combat climate change has the potential to foster deeper cultural understanding between Muslims and Jews.

Environmentalist narratives are prominent throughout the Quran. According to Islamic teachings, the essential elements of nature—earth, water, fire, forests, light—belong to all living organisms, not just to the human race. Humans, the guardians of nature, are discouraged from abusing or destroying natural resources: “He is the One Who produces gardens…Eat of the fruit they bear and pay the dues at harvest, but do not waste. Surely, He does not like the wasteful.” Planting trees, purifying rivers, and digging wells are also considered charitable deeds. Preventing water pollution is particularly significant given the role of water in daily worship. In the performance of ablution before prayer, Muslims are expected to exercise moderation as they wash themselves. In Mecca and Medina, The Prophet established the first protected areas in history, known in Arabic as hima. Within the bounds of protected areas, natural resources considered sacred were off limits during certain periods, and logging and grazing were prohibited.

Similarly, the Hebrew principles of bal tashchit (“do not destroy” or “do not waste”) and tikkun olam (“repair the world”) connect to the values of moderation and the sacredness of natural resources found in Islam. Themes of guardianship over nature are also woven into Jewish holidays. During Sukkot, Jews dwell in temporary structures called sukkot (it is a plural of the word Sukkah). Jewish law commands that a sukkah must have a thatched roof made of organic material while allowing a view of the sky and for rain to penetrate. This practice allows Jews to appreciate their relationship to nature more directly. Tu BiShvat, another holiday nicknamed “the new year of the trees,” coincides with the blooming of almond trees after dormancy during winter. Sixteenth century Kabbalists began the tradition of a seder (ritual meal) for Tu BiShvat, in which symbolic nuts, fruits, juices, and wines are featured. In the Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah, G-d says: “Do not corrupt or desolate my world; for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you.’” This line resembles the foreboding of many contemporary environmental activists and scientists.

Historically, the natural world has played a major role in the relationships between Muslims and Jews. The Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula resulted in the introduction of new agricultural practices from the Middle East and ushered in an era of general religious tolerance. New crops such as sugarcane and rice became parts of the culture of all who lived there: Arabs, Jews, other Europeans, etc. Sustainable irrigation practices involving the noria (waterwheel) and qanat (underground water channel) increased water supply. Historians call this agricultural transformation the “Islamic Green Revolution.” Córdoba, the capital of the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate (c. 711-1031), became the center of Sephardic Jewish life. Jews from all over Europe migrated to Spain, where the land supported their growing population. There was widespread transculturation of Jewish and Arab cultures in the sciences, philology, and literature. Against the backdrop of a shared, flourishing natural environment, Muslims and Jews coexisted peacefully.

In recent years, many Muslim and Jewish grassroots organizations and individuals have moved to the forefront of environmental activism. Green Muslims uses solar water heaters to heat water for ablution that thousands of worshipers perform in Washington, DC. Other organizations, including Eco-Halal, Green Ramadan, and Green Haj, are working to make Muslim traditions more sustainable. In 2022, twenty major Jewish organizations formed the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition, which is committed to taking action against the urgent threat of climate change.

Youth are also prominent voices in this movement. Muslim American climate activists like Saad Amer and Zahra Biabani are spreading their message through social media, leading protests at the White House, and speaking at the United Nations. The Jewish Youth Climate Movement has chapters across the United States. Young Jews for a Green New Deal incorporates Jewish music, poetry, and celebration into their activism to engage more people. In a variety of ways, American Muslims and Jews of every age are taking up their traditional mantles as stewards of the earth.

Meanwhile, when I am walking through my neighborhood, I never see Muslims and Jews interacting with each other. While there are annual interfaith events between Jews and Christians at my synagogue, I never see similar events between Muslims and Jews. As someone who from a young age has strived to learn and appreciate other faiths, I cannot sit with the prospect that tensions always have to exist between our communities—no more than I can fathom the idea that our efforts to stop climate change are futile. I believe that multicultural understanding springs from having hard conversations about the complex world we live in. What better way to have hard conversations than out in nature, which we all value and enjoy? Yet as the Earth continues to suffer from carbon emissions, pollution, and other issues created by humans, such opportunities for connection are lost before we even realize they exist.

Through climate-focused interfaith partnerships, Muslims and Jews can find common ground. By developing community projects, organizing protests, and lobbying the government, Muslims and Jews can learn about each other’s values and traditions. In the process, they can become more comfortable with being in the same place—passing shovels back and forth underneath the leaves we all pray will change color come autumn, as centipedes march past on the ground and eagles circle overhead.

By Emily Maremont, age 17, California. Emily adds: “I enjoy writing and learning about history in order to gain new perspectives on the world. In my essay, I use a memory from my childhood as a starting place to look at climate activism through an interfaith and multicultural lens.”








1. Bsoul, Labeeb, Amani Omer, Lejla Kucukalic, and Ricardo H. Archbold. “Islam’s Perspective on Environmental Sustainability: A Conceptual Analysis.” Social Sciences 11, no. 6 (May 24, 2022): 228.

2. Fitzwilliam-Hall, A.H. “An Introductory Survey of the Arabic Books of Filāḥa and Farming Almanacs.” The Filāha Texts. Last modified October 2010.

3. Islam, Md Saidul. “Old Philosophy, New Movement: The Rise of the Islamic Ecological Paradigm in the Discourse of Environmentalism.” Nature and Culture 7, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 72-94.

4. Jackson, Joelle. “Repairing Our World: Jewish Environmentalism through Text, Tradition, and Activism.” Folklife Magazine, January 12, 2022.

5. O’Brien, Becky. “Major Jewish Organizations Form Coalition to Act on Climate Crisis; Issue Open Call for Jewish Organizations Everywhere to Join.” Boulder Jewish News (Boulder, CO), September 15, 2022.

6. “Spain Virtual History Tour.” Jewish Virtual Library.

7. Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. “Nature in the Sources of Judaism.” Daedalus 130, no. 4 (Fall 2001): 99-124.

8. Venkatraman, Sakshi. “As Eid and Earth Day coincide, young Muslims are driving the modern climate movement.” NBC News. Last modified April 23, 2023.

How I Got My Idea

How I Got My Idea!

By Priya Elizabeth Kapur DeWinter, Grade 5, Massachusetts.

What’s your favorite food? Mine is ice cream. Have you ever wondered if ice cream could be a dress? Well, I wondered that, and it started many thoughts in my mind about designing clothes.

On the day I came up with the idea, I was sitting in Kindergarten wondering as I looked out the window. I saw a big apple tree and in that apple tree was a family of birds. “How beautiful,” I thought. I just love nature so I pulled out a piece of paper and started to draw a dress.

It had a black skirt with a red top. Across it was a green sash that reminded me of nature and the apple tree. It was a beautiful dress, it reminded me of my mom, and the beautiful things she wears. Only, she would prefer purple! The dress was beautiful and I showed it to my mom. She took a picture of it. As I got older, I looked at that picture and really started to focus on it.

Now that I’m older and going into 5th grade, I talk about my drawings. I never got to really do anything with my design after kindergarten. But, the summer before 5th grade, I finally got the opportunity to make the dress. My mom found me a sewing teacher for the summer and we started making MY dress. It was a little bit harder than I thought, but I realized nothing is impossible.

“Nothing is impossible,” I thought when I was little. Drawing is drawing but I never realized it could come to life! Drawing is easy for me but seeing the final outcome is not. You have to put thought into it and believe in yourself. I realized that no one is too young or old to start something new. And, not just for sewing, anything new, you can do! I started sewing classes and the first step was to practice. It took some learning before I could start sewing my own design. I loved learning new things and was so excited to sew the dress!

You’ve learned what I wanted to do from a young age. Now, you should go and find what you want to do. The world is full of stuff and different things to learn everyday. My dress was one dream that I never knew could become real. I really never thought this would actually happen and I loved learning how to sew and my new dress!


“My name is Priya Elizabeth Kapur DeWinter. I share my full name because it tells you about my family. My mother is 100% Indian—which is where the Kapur comes from—and my father is half Irish and half Belgian. DeWinter is a Belgian name. 

“My maternal grandparents are from India. I’ve never been and hope to go one day. I speak Hindi and English. I’m an older sister. I hope I can be an author or fashion designer when I’m older. I got inspired one day to ask my mom if I could sew the dress that I designed when I was 5 so I did and made it happen, which is what my story is about along with pictures of my original design as well as the dress.”



By Likhita Makam, age 15, Telangana, India

We fight and apologies we forget.
We get lost and we get upset.
We fall apart into a million pieces,
But being together smooths out all the creases.

Because in the end we’re a family
although we don’t get along dandily
Far from picture perfect Pinterest poses
We make it to the diner just before it closes
We spend weekends at home in quarrels
Perfect family? For that we’d have zero laurels
But we stick together, no matter what
for each other we’d take a jab in the gut, somewhat
What matters the most is we never part
We’re always close, we never depart

Because we’re a family
And family means nobody gets left behind
No matter our irregularities
No matter our similarities

—Likhita Makam, age 15, Indian American high school student, living in India. She has been published in youth newspapers and literary magazines. She is an avid reader and is up for a poetry discussion at all times.

Manu and Noah: Strikingly Different, Surprisingly Similar

Manu and Noah: Strikingly Different, Surprisingly Similar

By Sahil Prasad, grade 8, Maryland.

King Manu, the first man according to Hinduism, and Noah, the survivor of the great flood, are two legendary men, who hail from entirely different religions of the world. Yet, these great individuals, surprisingly, shared multiple similarities that would be interesting to dwell upon during these times when religion is the source of divisiveness.

The Great Flood Survivors

First, both Manu and Noah were chosen by their respective Gods to survive a great flood. Their stories are startlingly similar. It is incredible that the two civilizations that these stories originated from were never in direct contact with each other until many centuries later!

The Matsya or Fish Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Artwork is from the public domain and Wikipedia.

Manu was a sage who dedicated his life to faithfully serving and worshiping Hindu gods. The Lord Vishnu, the preserver in the Hindu trinity, chose Manu to be the survivor of a flood that would cleanse the world. The story goes that Vishnu decided to take the form of a tiny fish, the first of Vishnu’s ten avatars, and said to Manu, “Protect me from my predators and I will reward you.” Manu decided to keep the Vishnu-fish in a pot, which it quickly outgrew, and then in a lake, which also proved to be too small for the fish. Eventually, Manu moved the fish to the ocean. This is where Vishnu assumed his true form and informed Manu about a great flood that was about to occur. To ensure that his faithful follower survived, Vishnu instructed Manu to build an ark or a giant boat with all the animals, seeds, and other essential materials to survive the flood and start a new life. Manu decided to invite the seven holy sages or the Saptarishis to live with him in the new world. Manu and the seven holy sages guided the ark through the giant flood with the help of Vishnu–who led the ship with his horn in his giant fish form–to a peak where they rested until the world was cleansed. Finally, Vishnu came true to his promise and bestowed upon Manu the scriptural knowledge and power. The scriptural knowledge was passed down by Manu’s descendants and still continues to be studied today in the form of the Vedas.

Fun fact: According to B. B. Lal, the former director of the India Archaeology Institute, the flood of Manu approximately occurred as far back as the second millennium BCE.

Now coming to Noah; unlike Manu, the human race already existed in Noah’s world. The old human race was only concerned with money and killing, so God was disappointed with them. He decided to give the humans another chance by having Noah, the only devotee and true believer left on the planet, to be the guardian of a better human race. Noah, like Manu, also built an ark under God’s instructions, which were, “Build an ark of gopherwood, with rooms inside, three decks, and a door. Cover it inside and out with pitch.” (Genesis 6:13-22) Noah’s ark wandered the Earth (with Noah’s family and the various species that he had been instructed to bring with him) for 40 days and 40 nights in continuous rain. Noah traversed the ocean for another 150 days until God directed the boat to Mount Ararat (in present day Turkey) where it halted. Eventually, Noah sent out a dove to find land for them to settle and it came back a week later with an olive branch, which meant that land was out there. Just like to Manu, God made a promise to Noah that he would never flood the Earth ever again.

Harbingers of the Human Race

Manu and Noah were also attributed with ensuring the survival of the human race. After the great flood, Manu made a sacrifice to Brahma, the Creator in the Hindu trinity. He placed sour milk and butter in shallow water and this resulted in a maiden emerging from it, soon to become his wife. Eventually, the human race would start to grow at an exponential rate. Manu then instituted a quintessential set of laws (Laws of Manu) based on the Hindu scriptures that his ten sons and one daughter and subsequently, their descendants had to follow. One of these laws was to divide the population based on their gunas or skill sets. For example, people who were versed in the scriptures would be known as Brahmins. Eventually, humanity split into the solar clan founded by Manu’s sons and the lunar clan founded by Manu’s daughter. According to Hindu scriptures, Manu will be reincarnated when our current universe will be cleansed by Vishnu—in about 186.72 million years according to the Hindu scriptures—and he will be the leader and lawgiver of a more superior race.

In the case of Noah, after the devastating flood, he continued to live with his family and repopulate the Earth. Noah lived until the age of 950 and just like Manu, God helped his family grow rapidly. Just like the descendants of Manu split into the Solar and Lunar Clans, Noah’s descendants also split and settled the world, but they followed a different and more contentious trajectory than Manu’s descendants. Here’s how it played out.

Noah’s great grandson, Nimrod, began to build a colossal structure called the Tower of Babel, which slowly approached the height of the heavens. Citizens thought that Nimrod was building a temple, but it was revealed that reaching the heavens was his motivation all along to prove that he was an equal to God. As a result of Nimrod’s selfish actions, God decided to halt the construction of the Tower by making the workers speak different languages so they wouldn’t understand each other. As a last step, God took his punishment further and decreed that people of the city had to settle all around the world. This is how the world came to be inhabited according to the story of Noah and his family.

So there it is: the story of Manu and Noah. Given the striking similarities between them, some experts argue that they could be one and the same, a theory certainly worth pondering.

—Sahil Prasad, grade 8, Maryland.


Miya’s Summer Bubbles

Miya’s Summer Bubbles

By Carleen Cifton Bragg, African American Photographer, Illinois.

“I live in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood. There are three beautiful small lakes near where I live. Sometimes, I visit the park with a cup of my morning coffee. Sitting on the bench by the water, I gaze at the still water and the geese enjoying their group gatherings, and naturally, I smile. Watching the geese swimming makes me happy. It’s the most beautiful cornerstone in the neighborhood that I depend on as a quick getaway. It is my home away from home. In the autumn, it’s especially breathtaking! I call this ‘My Peace Spot’ for the tranquility it offers me. Last autumn, I took some of the most stunning photographs here!

“I developed an interest in photography at the age of five. I credit my parents for planting the seeds when they purchased me my first camera. They have continued to support my interest in photography over the years. I started as a self-taught photographer, but later trained with the New York Institute of Photography. I try to capture sports moments, glamour, landscapes, music, theater, and street life. I am enamored with the works of the ‘late greats’ like Gordon Parks and James Van Der Zee.

“My photos have been published by Tyler Perry’s Production: Why Did I Get Married?, Today’s Photographer Magazine, and the International Library of Photography. I am a three time-winner of the Museum of Science and Industry’s Black Creativity. I also had a solo exhibit—my first One-Woman show in 2011 at the ARC Gallery in Chicago, Illinois.”

Sketching and Painting a Horse

Sketching and Painting a Horse

By Janelle Tang, High School Senior, England, United Kingdom.

Horse Sketch: This was originally the planning sketch for a painted piece following a photo shoot (capturing the vitality and movement of horses). But while sketching it from a picture, I realised that there was much more to the muscles and twitches in the musculature of the horse than I had initially thought. Hoping to learn more about the facial structure and how the animal uses each muscle, I started sketching it out in more detail, finding tiny veins in the photograph that I had looked past originally. Eventually, the pencil sketch turned into a detailed pencil drawing of the horse. This not only allowed me to finesse my pencil skills, but also it led to a more detailed understanding of a horse’s musculature, which was later applied to another painting.

Horse Painting:

This painting was created after a photo shoot to capture horses’ vitality and movement and my curiosity to explore digital tools like Photoshop. I layered multiple pictures of horses, saddles and reigns together, and juggled with the formats, colouring and opacity of each image, and used different filters on each to highlight multiple areas on each image. This allowed me to focus on fine details I was interested in each image, treating each of them differently and associating colours and tone with each image, while still capturing the likeness of the horse. The medium of oil paint allowed me to create details in the image, changing the opacity as well through thinning the paint down in different areas, finally creating a cohesive painting that blends and flows throughout using optical mixing.

About the Artist:

Janelle Tang is a rising senior at Wycombe Abbey School in England. With a passion for art that ignited during her early years, Janelle has been painting since she was a young girl. As she grew, her curiosity led her to explore the captivating worlds of ceramics and textiles. With an adventurous spirit, Janelle delved into the realms of oil painting and hand-building pottery, and her artistic horizons expanded exponentially. 

Janelle’s artistic interests encompass a deep fascination with the Romanticism period of art, as well as the captivating allure of Oriental styles, such as Ukiyo-e prints. Diving into these subjects, she has written essays and conducted extensive research, delving into the techniques and styles of these art forms. This process has not only enriched her knowledge but has also ignited an even greater passion for the world of art.

As the Head of History of Art Society at her school, Janelle strives to inspire her peers and create a thriving artistic community. Her artistic journey has been one of growth, exploration, and unwavering dedication to the arts. With her unquenchable thirst for knowledge and her desire to generate unique ideas and solutions, Janelle hopes to leave an indelible mark on the canvas of artistic expression and beyond.

Ramadan For All

Ramadan for All

By Zanjabila Khadija, age 8, Indonesia.

Asif was going to fast in Ramadan month for the first time tomorrow. He was still five years old. Eating was usually fun for him, so the first fast was a tough challenge for him. That night, he was restless. He wondered what would happen if he didn’t eat his favorite food. Too tired to think about it, he fell asleep at 8 p.m., even though he usually went to bed at 9 p.m. He was too flustered, so he fell asleep early.

In his dream, he found himself in the land of giants. On that land, a lot of giant-sized foods can be enjoyed, such as candy, ice cream, vegetables, fish, fruit, chocolate, and so on. He was full after eating many different food dishes. He laid down when someone’s voice startled him. It turned out that it was not a human voice, but a giant talking candy!

When Asif fell asleep, his mom and dad discussed Asif’s fasting. They tried to find a way so that Asif could fast comfortably without feeling too hungry or bored. His dad said, “What if we bring him a new toy that he can play with and thus get distracted?”

However, his mom said, “No! Asif was bored with toys. What about a pet? Chickens, cats, or fish. Let him choose it by himself!”

Asif’s dad agreed. The next day, Asif woke up very early to eat his pre-fast meal because he was so excited about his first Ramadan. After finishing his meal, his mom and dad asked Asif to pray at dawn. Later in the morning, Asif and his dad went to Nana’s house, a short walk from their house. Nana was his aunt. Nana had eight cats. Some of them were Persian cats, and the others were domestic short-haired cats. Asif was amazed to see those cats. He wanted three cats. He asked Nana, “Aunty, can I keep these three cats?”

“Oh, sure,” said Nana without hesitation.

Asif was allowed to bring one Persian cat and two domestic cats. He forgot his hunger during the month of fasting. He loved them when they jumped around and chased his toys. Also, they did not find any mice at home anymore. Asif named his first domestic cat “Mimi the Nimble” because he was the most agile at catching mice. The second domestic cat was called “Mike the Great Climber.” He loved to climb all the trees in their backyard and bask for hours on the rooftop. The Persian cat was named “Lulu the Groomer.” Almost all day long, she combed her fur with her tongue.

One evening, Asif went to the mosque. The mosque committee would hold an iftar. All people who wanted to break the fast were invited to come. Arriving at the mosque, he saw many people gathered there. He sat in the mosque next to an old man he had never met. The old man told Asif that he was a traveler and was going to the next town by bike. Asif felt very happy every time he broke the fast together with other people at the mosque. He felt warmth even though he didn’t know those people. He saw that rich people would sit on the same floor as the poor. He also saw that all people got the same food. No matter what their ethnicity. He then remembered what his dad had once told him: “All people are equal before God, except for the good deeds they have done.”

When he ate his Iftar meal, he remembered his cats. He thought they should feel the joy of breaking the fast as well. He set aside his empal, a traditional meat dish, for his three cats. After breaking the fast and doing maghrib prayer—an evening prayer, Asif ran home carrying that large piece of empal. As he opened the door, all his cats ran toward him. Lulu and Mimi rubbed their bodies against his legs, while Mike climbed onto Asif’s shoulders. The three cats then partied happily with that meat!

Zanjabila Khadija, age 8, Indonesia. She writes: “I love writing poetry and short stories.” She has won several literary competitions for young writers in Indonesia. In 2024, the Ramadan will begin on Sunday evening, March 10th and end on Tuesday, April 9, 2024 with the festival of Eid al-Fitr. The festival lasts for three days.
Editor’s Note: Islam follows a lunar calendar and hence the Ramadan dates fall on different dates each year. Did you know that in 2030, there will be two Ramadans? The first Ramadan will be in January 2030, and the second one will be observed in the month of December. Also, on Dec. 25, as the Christians celebrate Christmas, the Muslims will be celebrating the festival of Eid!

Black History Month Poem: Resilience


To observe the annual Black History Month, we are pleased to present “Resilience,” a poem by Arianna Shaprow Crain, age 12, a seventh grader in Nevada. Arianna was interviewed this morning and was asked to read her poem by KTNV News, on their ‘Good Morning Las Vegas’ show. The poem will also be published in our upcoming Spring 2024 issue (Mar. – Aug. 2024). You can also download the poem here.

“Resilience” explores the African Diaspora and chronicles the struggles of the vibrant, defiant members of my family. In the midst of our tragedies, my ancestors were able to find peace and navigate the rough terrain that lie ahead. They were slaves in Holly Springs, Mississipi. After the Emancipation Proclamation, they migrated to Chicago for more opportunities. In Chicago, they had to endure racism and segregation, which negatively impacted their employment. My great grandmother became a maid at a hotel and raised 13 children. She had to endure an endless cycle of poverty. Much of our history was lost, because we were stolen from our homeland. Even though our cultural identities were dismantled, my ancestors found comfort in music, stories, and our love for one another. We are resilient, and we are survivors. I know that I am a survivor, because I am here to tell you my story.

We were taken
from our homelands
our prosperity and sense of community
stolen from us
our families torn apart
cultural identities dismantled

forced to work all day
beneath the blistering hot sun
dehydrated and burned out
bruised knees, scraped elbows
wounded from whips
desperately yearning for a way out
but their cries were never heard

They locked us
in an endless loop of poverty
mental illness
and depression

from Holly Springs, Mississippi
and the shackles of slavery
to Chicago
seeking independence
and “liberty”
this was the journey of my ancestors

We were never freed
after the Emancipation Proclamation
never freed
from generational trauma
and pain

from schools
unable to receive the education
that we deserved

and racism
Poverty naturally followed
Haunting us…

A never-ending maze
with no exit
only dead ends.

My relatives suffered
rat bites and tuberculosis as babies
gunshot wounds and addiction as adults
no money for doctors
unstable living conditions
poor ventilation
never knowing
what’s next…

Surviving paycheck to paycheck
Food stamps, welfare
Evictions and discrimination
13 of my aunts and uncles
lived in a tiny apartment
5 slept on a single, soiled mattress
a drumline of tragedies

Many of them
broke the cycle
my grandmother became the first
African American female Assistant District Attorney
in El Paso, Texas
scholarships and hard work paved her way

My mother is a survivor
of PTSD and panic attacks
a single mother who cares for me
with unwavering love

We don’t know
much of our history
or where in Africa
we come from

The knowledge of our history
was stripped away from us
buried deep in our family’s past
it remains a mystery…
One thing that will never
be taken away from us
Is our culture
We have created
a rich culture
Through centuries of oppression
our coping mechanisms
soothed us
comforting melodies
and soul

What do we have?
We have our imagination
We redefine and reframe
To make us sane

documents detail our ancestors’ stories
And bold
full of vibrant characters
riveting music
and soulful dishes

When I am fearful
I remember to be courageous
I remember I have ancestors
who were beaten and lynched

My ancestors were

This is my lineage
This is my history
We are resilient
Resilient survivors

—Arianna Shaprow Crain, age 12, grade 7, Nevada.

It’s Time to Abandon War

It’s Time to Abandon War

By Kathy Beckwith, author and educator, Oregon

[These ideas were first shared by the author as a TED Talks program, at TEDxMcMinnville, Oregon, and we are now pleased to publish it for the benefit of Skipping Stones readers.  —Editors]

I grew up on a hog farm in western Oregon. I had my own pig. She was my 4-H project. But it was more fun to play in the woods with my brothers and sisters than train a pig, so she never got really tame. In spite of my lack of pig training skills, I still reaped the benefits of growing up on that hog farm—learning to swim in an irrigation pond, eating garbage that was collected for the pigs. Just kidding, well, sort of. What we ate were the “trimmings” from grocery stores, discarded produce that had begun to fade, that my dad had picked up on his route around town, gathering scraps to feed the hogs. So we ate artichokes, oranges, bananas, pomegranates—things too good to feed hogs that we wouldn’t get otherwise.

I never wondered if this was normal, but I don’t remember ever telling other kids at school about sharing the pigs’ trimmings. So maybe, it wasn’t totally normal, after all. I have not lost two minutes of sleep over the question of trimmings being normal

But there is something big, now, that we take as normal, that at times makes me cry from the cruelty of it, and other times makes me cry out against the injustice and the horrid destruction because of it. I’ve been learning more about how it comes to be considered normal.

Have you heard of the Green Frog in the lima bean pot? Green Frog hops into the pot where the lima beans are soaking overnight—in cold water—but in the morning, when the fire is lit in the cook stove under the pot, and the water starts to get hot, so does Green Frog—unaware. Because it’s his nature to adapt his body temperature to his surroundings. Sometime before boiling, Green Frog has to be startled into leaping from danger, or risk getting cooked.

It seems to me, that when considering war, many of us are quite like Green Frog. We’ve been adapting to our surroundings, to a culture that treats war as normal, and it’s getting hot.

I propose three things for your consideration:

  • War is not normal…
  • It is time to abandon war… and
  • It can be done.

Yet we do things ourselves that normalize war. We let assumptions take hold in our minds. Have you heard these?

  • War is inevitable. Things will never change.

Inevitable? Conflict is inevitable; but war is a choice, a decision that is made about how to respond to a conflict.

Things will never change? Dueling, to the death, was seen as an honorable way for gentlemen, including a man who became a U.S. President, to settle a rumor. Women, vote?! Ha! Things change!

There are other reasons we adapt to the “war is normal” lima bean pot.

  • Fear sells war, and we’re sold fear.
  • Carefully chosen words and PR (Public Relations) campaigns market wars such as
    “Rolling Thunder”, “Shock and Awe”, and “Operation Enduring Freedom.”
  • Kids watch the parades and ceremonies from toddler days on. They play with war toys bought for them, and—when older—with video games simulating war, normalizing war.
  • And then we put war in its own category and don’t challenge it like we would other things. If neighborhood problems were handled with the violence of war, we’d name it tragic, criminal—not heroic. If hometown parades included execution equipment from prisons past and present—electric chairs, firing squads, lethal injection kits—we’d say, “What in the world were they thinking, putting that stuff in a parade our kids watch?” But execution equipment of war—tanks…? “Wow!” If we heard teenagers down the street calling out the chants used in military training: “What makes the grass grow? Blood makes the grass grow. Who makes the blood flow? We do, we do. Blood, Blood, Blood!” … and “Kill, Kill!”—we’d call 9-1-1 for help. Never would we condone the “normals” of war in our communities!

But perhaps most normalizing of all, is the assumption that even though no one wants war, sometimes it’s necessary to protect human rights and our freedoms; that without war, we’d lose our freedom. The problem is, rarely do we finish that sentence. Our freedom to do what, exactly? What freedoms have our wars actually protected? Freedom to take land we wanted? To protect business investments in other countries?… To opt for war instead of using alternatives, over and over again. Our history is bleak, and sad. How many of us grow up believing that the horrendous killing and maiming of the American Civil War was necessary to get rid of slavery? We don’t learn to ask, “Why didn’t we join the rest of the world in eliminating slavery through moral and legal persuasion, instead of turning to war?” The more we learn about alternatives that were possible but not taken, the harder it is to accept war.

But wait. What about Hitler? I have been asked that question so many times, and heard Hitler used as justification for U.S. military acts so many times, that I’ve begun to wonder if maybe Hitler won the war, after all. Wasn’t he the one who believed that power and violence should be combined to reach one’s goals? That philosophy seems to have caught on.

When we discuss Hitler, let’s make sure we ask, and answer, because the answers are here, “What could have been done before and during Hitler’s rise to power that would have changed the course of that history? What could have been done to prevent Hitler’s brutality from being condoned?”

Never should we grant Hitler—or anyone—power over us to keep us from choosing alternatives that are wise, effective, humane, and that honor life and our precious Earth.

But are there alternatives that really work? That’s the good news! Alternatives abound. Education. Diplomacy. Negotiation, mediation, arbitration. Economic justice, crisis response teams, peace commissions—all are effective alternatives to war.

A more democratic United Nations could be used to advise wisely, instead of us bartering with its members to do our will.

Universities around the world have programs in international conflict resolution, and specialists ready to facilitate peace-making, as do religious and secular organizations, and the United States Institute of Peace.

People find ways! Women from Liberia barricaded men inside a hotel, preventing them from leaving until they got serious about negotiating the end to war.

Bulgaria was ordered by Hitler to ship the country’s Jews by rail to the death camps. The first group of 9,000 Jews were assembled at the railway station, in barbed wire fences, awaiting final orders for loading onto the trains. Members of parliament, students, and others from all walks of life, joined the clergy there, who said they would lie down on the tracks; these people must not be taken away. Those ready to give the orders, instead told the Jews to take their bags and go back home.

President Truman and the United States Air Force responded to the Soviet Union’s full blockade of West Berlin in 1948, not with a return to war or the threat of war, but with an airlift of supplies dropped into the city for months, until the Soviets recognized the futility of their actions.

The research of Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth (TEDxBoulder) presents us with dramatic truths: nonviolent civil resistance works, it works better than violence, and it more often results in democratic systems in place after the resistance. There is no excuse for saying war is necessary.

So what can WE do, personally, to help bring about the end of war?

We can question. We can ask, “What alternatives are possible in this situation?” Question what role U.S. military bases around the world, our weapons sales, military spending, our rhetoric—what role do these things play in perpetuating war. Question why the U.S. government insists on spending a trillion dollars to modernize nuclear weapons of unimaginable destruction, designed for the mass murder of populations, when so many nations are calling for them to be dismantled.

Question. And assign ourselves a history lesson: Learn about wars, and what they do to real people, including survivors, and soldiers who actually fight on the ground. So much of war, for so many of us, happens someplace else.

We can learn about alternatives, including nonviolent civil resistance, and teach that history to children and teens. We can teach kids how to mediate conflicts for each other at school, and bring that training home and into their future lives. We can hold family meetings, so kids grow up knowing how to facilitate a meeting and brainstorm solutions. We can encourage youth to explore service in the Peace Corps, or take six months (or more) to volunteer somewhere around the world, because their work and experiences in different cultures will make a difference. Prevention costs a fraction of military action. And as they help others, they will surely grow in compassion and understanding.

We can stop feeling powerless and join others to share ideas and take action. We can stop honoring war and honor its opposite: “creative problem-solving.”

And if we wish, we can point out how mules cooperate—to swat flies.

I was walking on our road and glanced into the field where our mules…(video) were standing rump to head, swishing their tails, brushing the flies off each other’s faces. I ran home, grabbed my camera, and when my husband got home, I told him, “Your mules are amazing.” “Yep, they are,” he said, “but they do that all the time. It’s normal!”

Well, if mules can normalize cooperation, people can too.

In January 1929, the US Senate advised ratification and President Coolidge signed into law the Kellogg Briand Pact outlawing the use of war as a means of resolving conflict. Millions and millions of Americans said we are ready for the end of war. They raised such a voice that those in government had to listen, and join the effort, and make it the law of the land—it’s still the law of the land—a law that we can reclaim, if we will seek out and use alternatives to war.

We’re lucky to have three awesome and exceedingly fun grandkids. I love them dearly. I want the best for these precious kids. Down deep I think we know what’s normal, what we come home to—the longing we all have, to give the children the very best we can. They don’t need to inherit our messes. War is a monstrous mess. It has been normalized, but it’s not the way, and we don’t have to accept it.

We can abandon war. There are alternatives. I extend to each one of you a personal invitation, and permission, to help make that happen.

About the Author:
Kathy Beckwith is a school mediation trainer from Dayton, Oregon. She also volunteers as a mediation coach. She is author of PLAYING WAR: A Story About Changing the Game (winner, 2006 Skipping Stones Honor Award); A MIGHTY CASE AGAINST WAR: What America Missed in U.S. History Class and What We (All) Can Do Now; and other books on problem-solving. Her latest work is a young adult novel, ENCOUNTER: When Religions Become Classmates—From Oregon to India and Back (winner, 2022 Skipping Stones Honor Award). She lives on a small farm with her husband (and his mules) and loves picking wild blackberries for summertime pies. She can be reached via her website at Kathy’s TEDx Talk can be accessed online here.